Cupid’s arrow may be inspired by the mating rituals of… land snails?

Courtship behavior in the little gray snail, photo credit Ric, Brewer, Little Gray Farms Escargots

Courtship behavior in the little gray snail.
Photo credit Ric Brewer, Little Gray Farms Escargots.

Seriously. Land snails.  

Some species of land snails stab each other with a so-called love dart before mating. The love dart acts as a needle that injects mucus into the body of the partner snail.  

Why would snails go through all the trouble with love darts?  

Snails mate with more than one other snail during breeding season. The competition is high to be the one to successfully fertilize their partner’s eggs. The mucus injected by the love dart contains chemicals that increase the chances of the shooter snail becoming a father.  

One species of love-dart-wielding-snail that I wish had less reproductive success in Washington state is the invasive Mediterranean vineyard snail. This dime-sized snail, native to southern Europe, is a major concern for Washington state agriculture because it devours grains and clogs harvesting machinery and contaminates crops. 

As readers may be aware, Mediterranean vineyard snails were first found on Port property in 2005. At its peak, the infestation covered 300 acres on the Blair-Hylebos Peninsula. Eradication efforts have knocked the snail population down to a single Port parcel. These efforts are ongoing but only 70 snails were detected in 2022!